Paramount Pictures and DreamWorks Pictures
Since it was first announced in January 2015 that Scarlett Johansson would play the main character in a live-action adaptation of Masamune Shirow’s seminal manga series Ghost in the Shell, the film has been at the center of the conversation about whitewashing in Hollywood. The debate has exploded in the past two months in particular; after the release of the first photo of Johansson in character in April, seeing the white actor in the role of a famous manga character had fans particularly angry with Paramount and DreamWorks Pictures. A report that the studios ran CGI tests to alter the white actors’ appearances and recent paparazzi photos from the set in Hong Kong that soon followed only added fuel to the backlash.
Until now, those behind Ghost in the Shell have remained silent. But on Wednesday, BuzzFeed News spoke with Steven Paul, a producer on the film who announced his plans to adapt another manga series, Lone Wolf and Cub, this week. Paul told BuzzFeed News in a phone interview that he thinks manga fans will have a change of heart after they see the movie version of Ghost in the Shell.
“I think everybody is going to end up being really happy with it,” he said. “They’re going to be very, very happy with it when they see what we’ve actually done with it, and I don’t think anybody’s going to be disappointed.”
Paul also clarified the name of Johansson’s character: She is referred to as “the Major” in the movie, despite being known as Major Kusanagi in the source material.
While the original Ghost in the Shell takes place in the fictional Japanese city of Niihama, Niihama Prefecture, Paul referred to the setting of Ghost in the Shell as “an international world.” “There [are] all sorts of people and nationalities in the world in Ghost in the Shell,” he said of the cast, which also includes Pilou Asbaek, Michael Pitt, Takeshi Kitano, Juliette Binoche, Kaori Momoi, and Chin Han. “We’re utilizing people from all over the world. … There’s Japanese in it. There’s Chinese in it. There’s English in it. There’s Americans in it.”
Momoi, who revealed in a recent interview with the Associated Press that she plays the mother of Johansson’s character, defended the studios’ decision to cast Johansson. “I felt blessed to have worked with her,” she told the AP.
While there are fans who argue Ghost in the Shell is an inherently Japanese story and not a universal narrative, Paul, who grew up watching Japanese films and reading manga, doesn’t see it that way.
“I don’t think it was just a Japanese story. Ghost in the Shell was a very international story, and it wasn’t just focused on Japanese; it was supposed to be an entire world,” he said. “That’s why I say the international approach is, I think, the right approach to it.”
“I think …read more